A founding member of FAST-Infra Group (FIG), Meridiam has specialized in tomorrow’s infrastructures since 2005. Today, with 11 offices on three continents and over 380 employees, the company operates in both developed and emerging countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Interview with Thierry Déau, President of FIG.
Meridiam’s teams design, finance and manage sustainable and resilient infrastructures over the long term, and support and accelerate the development of innovative SMEs involved in the ecological transition, thus contributing to the achievement of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. It focuses on three key areas: essential public services, sustainable mobility and innovative low-carbon solutions, helping to improve people’s quality of life.
1/ What motivated Meridiam to be a driving force behind the creation of FAST-Infra Group?
At Meridiam, we’ve been trying to make progress in sustainable infrastructure financing for almost 20 years, particularly in emerging countries.
So I didn’t hesitate for a second to support this initiative and get personally involved in the association. Our approach is part of a broader framework of contributions to the « infra » ecosystem, with, for example, the AIFP (Africa Infrastructure Fellowship Program), an initiative launched in 2018 to help African governments develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure projects through training for civil servants.
All these initiatives aim to enable the construction of essential infrastructure, like the BRT in Dakar, a fleet of fully electric buses thanks to mixed financing. We would like to see an increase in the number of sustainable infrastructure projects, thanks to an initiative like FAST Infra, which makes it possible to reduce risk through actions such as labeling.
2/ After COP28, how would you define the main challenges of the ecological transition in the infrastructure sector?
COP 28 confirmed several of our intuitions, which have guided our action for over fifteen years. The importance of preparing for ecological financing and the need not to forget the need to adapt infrastructures were at the heart of the debates.
While many players had grasped the opportunity and urgency of the low-carbon transition, the issue of adapting cities to the new risks of climate change had been all but forgotten. I can say that we are true pioneers in this area, thanks in particular to TURF [The Urban Resilience Fund], a fund launched in 2021 with the Rockefeller Foundation and the UN Capital Development Fund. Under this initiative, we are able to finance complex adaptation projects, such as our project to enhance and protect the Nouakchott coastline in Mauritania.
More generally, we are working on all our infrastructures to ensure that they are not only virtuous for our planet and people, but also resilient in the face of climate change. A good example of this mindset is the Port of Miami tunnel in Florida, which suffers from annual flooding that we had anticipated. In terms of the sector as a whole, the main thing remains to be done.
The other topic at COP 28, the importance of financing, also confirmed the strategy we’ve been pursuing since 2005, when we were considered utopians. The result: more than 120 projects financed for the common good, on three continents.
Finally, I think that we in the infrastructure sector need to anticipate a question that we will be asked from now on before every project: is this new energy, transport, health or education infrastructure really essential? And if the answer is no, I don’t see how we can take it on and see our projects through to completion.
3/ In 2024, what projects or new directions would you like to see FAST Infra group develop?
I’m not sure that 2024 is destined to be a year of breakthrough for FIG, but rather a year of continuity and reinforcement, maintaining the momentum it has built up since its creation. Inclusiveness must be the watchword, both in terms of member states and stakeholders, in order to fully realize its essential mission for the sustainable infrastructure sector.
The most important thing is that we remain consistent with our DNA, which is to facilitate the financing and construction of sustainable, affordable and inclusive infrastructure.